I’m well overdue a big catch up, with all my unwritten blog posts! I’ve been to quite a few fabulous vintage events this year and still haven’t got round to blogging about them. With Twinwood only a few hours away and lots of other exciting events on the vintage calendar, I thought I’d get to work writing about some of the fun things I’ve been up to.

I’ve always wanted to go to one of the many 1940s days that happen at Britain’s many heritage railway lines. My dad is a big steam train enthusiast and we’ve always enjoyed visiting railways together. Mixing my love of history and vintage with his love of trains seemed like the perfect day out for both of us. We decided to visit War On The Line, a WW2 themed event on the Mid Hants Railway also known as the Watercress Line.

The event had a bit of everything from re-enactors, to vintage clothing stalls, live music and of course the trains themselves. There was also plenty of interesting demonstrations, which gave a fascinating insight into the war.

I decided to not bring my big camera with me, as its sometimes nice to just enjoy a day out without trying to get perfect blog photos. So I just took a few on my phone this time.

War on The Line Classic CarsThere were plenty of gorgeous classic cars on display, I especially loved the fire engine.

War on the Line Vintage ClothesI couldn’t resist a good look through all the fantastic vintage clothing stalls, there were so many gorgeous 40s and 50s dresses.

War on the line Steam TrainsOf course there were wonderful steam trains running all day. It was really fun riding between the stations and sitting in different carriages. It was great having my dad with me to tell me all about the trains.

War on the line Harry Potter BridgeThere was even a bridge, that had appears in two of my favourite films The Thirty Nine Steps and Harry Potter!

War on the Line ViewAnd the views were beautiful! The Mid Hants Railway, sits in beautiful countryside and it was lovely to get away from London for the day and enjoy the fresh air.

War on the line Winston ChurchillI loved all the vintage details on the stations, it was like stepping back in time. I even got a brief sighting of Winston Churchill himself!

War on the Line Mid Hants Railway-2There were loads of fantastic reenactors  at the event and it was really interesting chatting to them, they all knew so much about the war and their passion for the past was incredible.

War on the line carsIt was an absolutely brilliant day out and I will definitely be going again next year. I’d also like to check out more railway events in the future. The atmosphere was fantastic and even learnt a bit of history while I was there.

Find out about future events on The Watercress Line website.

I’ve been excitedly anticipating the new exhibition on 1940s fashion which launched last week at The Imperial War Museum. Fashion on the Ration explores clothing worn during the Second World War and the social background that shaped the fashions of the era. I was really lucky to be invited to the press view and was one of the first people to have a look at all the amazing items on display. It was wonderful to meet the curator Laura Slater who showed us round the exhibition as well as Julie Summers who wrote the accompanying book which I reviewed on the blog last week.

Fashion on The Ratio Utility Clothing

The exhibition takes us on a journey through the war years, with a mixture of clothing, accessories, photographs and film as well as official documents, magazines, letters and ephemera. There are six sections each exploring different areas of war time fashion through the clothing itself and items relating to it.

First up is Into Uniform, during the war many types of uniform were worn both military and civilian, from Land Girls to WRNs theres are some beautiful examples of war time uniform on display.

Fashion on the Ration Uniforms

Functional Fashion includes examples of how fashions needed to be practical during the war and how retailers needed to be creative in making items both functional and practical. Included in the display are house coats, siren suits and handbags designed to carry gas masks.

One of my favourite sections was the Rationing and Make Do and Mend area. To me these really define the day to day struggles people faced at home during the war. However it also celebrates the creativity and ingenuity women used to stay in fashion when very little in the way of new clothing was available to them. I was particularly excited to see a lingerie set made using RAF silk maps that I read about previously.

Fashion On The Ration Make Do and Mend

Fashion on The Ration Clothing Coupon BookThe fashion history enthusiast in me was most excited to see the fantastic Utility Clothing section. I’ve recently become really interested in CC41 clothing and was given my first pair of CC41 stockings for my last birthday. The introduction of Utility clothing is by far the most significant fashion innovation of the war and it is particularly interesting as top designers such us Hardy Amies and Norman Hartnell were drafted in to half design it. It was fantastic to see such pristine examples that really showed that Utility doesn’t have to mean boring. The clothing may have stuck to strict guidelines but style, print and quality were certainly not lacking.

Fashion On The Ration CC41

Fashion on The Ration CC41 Clothing

Beauty as Duty looks at the lengths women went to to stay attractive despite shortages of many of the products that they had used before the war. Looking beautiful was seen as a duty during the war and lipsticks were designed to match uniforms. This section also houses some wonderful examples of propaganda scarves. I recently sold my 1940s Jacamar scarf and looking at these examples made me kick myself a little!

Fashion on the ration Cosmetics

Fashion On The Ration Propaganda Print ScarvesThe final section is titled Peace and a New Look and looks at how the end of the war impacted fashion. The victory themed dresses on display are just incredible. It also goes on to give an example of a Dior ‘New Look’ ensemble from the designers influential 1947 collection, which went on to inspire the full skirted fashions of the 1950s.

Fashion on the ration victory dress

The exhibition concludes with footage of fashion commentators discussing the legacy of the war upon fashion.

If you’re a lover of vintage fashion or social history then this exhibition is an absolute must-see. Not only are the items on display fascinating, but also inspiring.

Fashion on the Ration runs until 31st August 2015. Tickets can be bought online here or in person.

Find out more about Fashion on the Ration on the Imperial War Museum Website. 

I’m giving away one copy of the Fashion on the Ration Book. To enter either comment on the blog post about why you’d like to read the book or tweet about the giveaway or both. I’ll be announcing the winner one the giveaway has ended and will contact the winner directly.

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Fashion on The Ration by Julie Summers Review

Tomorrow sees the launch of an exciting new exhibition at The Imperial War Museum in London. Fashion on the Ration explores the issues faced by both men and women during the period of clothes rationing which took place during the Second World War and for a while after. I popped along to the press view of the exhibition this morning and if you’re planning on going you really are in for a treat. I’ll be covering the exhibition more in a post later this week. Today I’d like to share my thoughts on the incredible book which accompanies the exhibition.

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The book is written by Julie Summers who writes fascinating social history books focussing on the war years. I’ve read another of her books and absolutely loved it so I was really looking forward to leafing through the pages of this one.

The hardback book not only features nearly 200 pages of text but is full of wonderful images, be they photographs of clothing, government posters or magazine adverts, they really add an extra insight into the issues faced during the war years. As well as the glossy colour photos on the middle pages, there are other images scattered throughout which add a little extra context to the accounts covered in the book.

One thing I really love about Julie’s writing is how she brings real people into her books and talks about their lives and experiences, she is a fantastic story-teller as well as historian and this makes her books real page turners. As well as the fantastic writing, the actual subject matter is absolutely fascinating and paints a picture of life in war-time in a light I’ve not experienced before and I feel like I’ve gained so much knowledge not just on the fashion of the era but also on the day-to-day lives of women and their struggles at a very difficult time.

Fashion on The Ration Colour Pictures

Subjects covered include women’s uniforms during war-time, the introduction of rationing and how it worked as well as utility clothing and fashion directly after the war, she also covers subjects like beauty and make-up during war-time and how fashion magazines coped with the difficulties of rationing. The book goes into great detail talking about why rationing was needed, how many coupons people received and what they could get with them. For me as a vintage fashion enthusiast I found the chapter about CC41 utility clothing and the top end designers brought in to design them especially interesting.  I also felt truly inspired by all the description of how women took on the responsibility of ‘make do and mend’ and how creative they were when it came to making clothes last and making clothes with the materials available. There is so much we can take from this today.

Fashion on The Ration Clothing Book

The author uses a fantastic mix of references throughout the book including diaries and letters written at the time as well as women’s magazines especially Vogue, she also looks a lot at the information that the government provided for the people, which gives a very well-rounded account.

I’m really glad I got the chance to read the book before visiting the exhibition as I felt I gave all the items on display a greater relevance and poignancy. I also recognised some of the items mentioned in the book such as a suit that was worn to a wedding and a set of lingerie made using RAF silk maps.

Fashion on The Ration by Julie Summers

I’d recommend the book to anyone who has an interest in fashion both vintage and otherwise as well as history enthusiasts. If you’re a home sewer you’ll also find the book really inspiring. I loved the book because I felt I gained a real snapshot of an era and the social history of war-time Britain. I have a new-found respect for the generation of women who managed to juggle so much and I’d really recommend giving it a read.

You can buy a copy of Fashion on the Ration on Amazon.

Fashion on the Ration is published by Profile Books and Accompanies the exhibition at The Imperial War Museum.

I was lucky enough too get sent an extra copy of the book to give away to one of my lovely readers which you enter below…

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I will announce the winner once the giveaway has ended and will contact the winner to arrange delivery. This giveaway is only open to UK based readers.